Miraculous Medal

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Miraculous Medal

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Miraculous Medal is a small medallion that pictures the Blessed Virgin Mary that began to appear in France in the early 1830s. It was one product of the series of apparitions of the Virgin to Catherine Labouré (1806–1876), a nun with the Sisters of Charity in Paris. According to the story, she was awakened one evening in July 1830 for the first of three conversations with the Virgin. In this initial apparition, Mary told Catherine that she had a mission for her. In a second conversation in November, she filled out the nature of the mission: the asking of God’s graces for a troubled world. In a third apparition, Catherine saw Mary standing on a globe with rays of light coming from her outstretched arms. She also stood on a serpent (a symbol of Satan in Christianity) and appeared to be crushing it. Around Mary were the words: “Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” She told Catherine to have medals struck with Mary pictured as she now saw her. Mary promised graces on all who would wear it.

Catherine explained the visions to her confessor, who assisted her in attaining the approval of church authorities to have the medals struck. The first were made and distributed in 1832. Subsequently, an official inquiry was made into the apparitions, and approval of them was given in 1836. From that time, the wearing of the medals spread exponentially.

Saint Catherine persuaded the Daughters of Charity and the priests of the Congregation of the Mission to assist with her mission of spreading Miraculous Medal devotion. The priests then founded the Association of the Miraculous Medal with national affiliates in other countries. Pope Pius X approved the association’s charter in 1909, and the American affiliate was opened in 1918. It now has more than a million members.

The apparitions given to Catherine Labouré are now seen as the first of a number of apparitions that have been the focus of a greatly revived veneration of the Virgin Mary in the Catholic Church. Subsequent apparitions at Lourdes,France, and Fatima, Portugal, would have far-reaching consequences for Catholic devotional life. Meanwhile, the wearing of the Miraculous Medal took its place as an important building block of modern Catholic Marian devotion.

Sources:

Breen, Stephen. Recent Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. New York: Scapular Press, 1952.
Dirvan, Joseph I. Saint Catherine Labouré of the Miraculous Medal. New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1958. Reprint, Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, 1994.
Englebert, Omer. Catherine Labouré and the Modern Apparitions of Our Lady. New York: Kennedy, 1959.
Windeatt, Mary F. The Miraculous Medal: The Story of Our Lady’s Appearances to Saint Catherine of Labouré. Rockford, IL: Tan Books & Publishers, 1991.
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